This paper offers a novel provocation framework intended to help U.S. policymakers assess specific gray zone scenarios. Provocativeness is a measure of an actions significance based on the degree to which it changes the status quo and affects U.S. interests. By understanding provocativeness, U.S. policymakers can assess the importance of adversary actions, which informs the need for response. Using this provocation framework, which is focused on powerful state actors, would help the United States to more effectively counter adversary aggression and to encourage other states to accept establishment of gray zone behavioral norms. The provocation model is based on key thresholds, national interests, and compounding and mitigating factors, and provides two primary benefits. First, it would help the United States to counter adversary aggression effectively by assisting in development of response options, strengthening deterrence, and managing escalation. Second, with sustained emphasis, it could help the United States to encourage adversaries to accept establishment of gray zone behavioral norms, potentially resulting in international compliance with this provocation model or the bargaining required to create socially-constructed rules.